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Album Review

Google the phrase "Old Dominion," and the first entry that pops up online isn't this relatively new country quintet. Nope. It's a trucking company. Which strikes me as a rather juicy irony, given the prominent role trucks have often played in country music.

Turns out, Old Dominion is actually a nickname for the state of Virginia, where several band members originally hail from. (A fact that I'm certain most Virginians and history buffs know already, even if this Iowa native did not.) But these five guys are based in Nashville now, the undisputed country music capital of the universe. And their second album, Happy Endings, reflects the cutting edge of country's continuing stylistic evolution.

You'll notice just a hint of twang in frontman Matthew Ramsey's delivery. But you'll also hear a variety of other musical influences at work too, including rock, neo-folk and hip-hop … as well as a tip 'o the straw hat to island icons Jimmy Buffett and Jack Johnson.

If the band's sound is a new-school country affair, however, the stories they tell are decidedly more old-school: loving and losing, drinking and hoping … but mostly losing and drinking.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Album opener "No Such Thing as a Broken Heart" praises a man's faithful parents: "How did my mom and dad ever do it?/If there was struggles, then we never knew it/I guess they had each other, and that was enough." The band says that even though hardships are inevitable ("'Cause you can't keep the ground from shaking, no matter how hard you try"), we've got to keep our hearts open ("You gotta love like there's no such thing as a broken heart").

"Not Everything's About You" narrates the story of a guy who's finally reached emotional equilibrium after a bad breakup: "I can hear your name and fall asleep just fine/Yeah, the world don't revolve around you."

"Be With You" overflows with a man's hyperbolic admiration for woman he's smitten with: "You could be the president, you would get my vote/You could be the captain of whatever floats your boat/You could be the singer, you'd hit every note/ … Why do you be with me?"

"Written in the Sand" finds a guy longing for marriage with a partner who isn't ready to make that commitment: "Yeah, I want you to want me to take you back home to my mama/Put my name on your lips, call me yours and forget all this drama." Other images in the song ponder romantic permanence versus transience: "Are we written in the stars, baby, or are we written in the sand?"

"Stars in the City" is nice song about a guy who marvels at his gal's positive perspective, and how it's influencing his own: "The more I hang with her the more I realize/There can be beauty in the broken if you open up your mind."

Objectionable Content

"Hotel Key" is probably the most problematic song on the Happy Endings. In it, a man and a woman who've been smoking pot and drinking ("We were smoking a little from a half an ounce/The tequila was cheap, but the flow we were feeling was real") end up checking into a hotel together, with predictable results ("And that night we left our hearts on our sleeves and the clothes all over the floor"). But it was, apparently, just a casual—if memorable—tryst: "She left a picture in my head/She left the night I can't forget/ … She kept the hotel key."

"Still Writing Songs About You" also alludes to drinking and spending several nights in a hotel with another woman: "Still writing songs about/ … You on a bed and a mini bar, three day/Haze with your hair and my heart all a mess in the morning." He admits there have been others ("I've gotten drunk on whiskey and women"), but he still can't shake her memory.

"Written in the Sand" may long for permanent commitment, but it still references a couple's current physical relationship: "Let's cut through the s---, then let's get to what we're doing here/Are we just a backseat, tryna get it while we can?/ … Are we last-call kissing or will we be reminiscing with each other for the next 40 years?" We also hear the guy observe, "You flirt when you're drinkin'."

"Be With Me," "New York at Night" and "So You Go" all include mild passing nods to physical intimacy. And on "Can't Get You (Live)," a guy relies on alcohol to steel his nerves in order to pursue a hard-to-get girl: "I get bored, I get drunk/I get drunk, I get brave/I get a phone, I get a cab/ …. I get to the bar, but I can't get you."

"A Girl Is a Gun" metaphorically (and profanely) compares a woman's power to break a man's heart to a pistol: "She feels good in your hand from the first little spark/But guns shoot bullets and bullets break hearts/Heartbreak's a b--ch/She'll kill you with a kiss/So be careful when you're holding one/'Cause a girl is a gun."

Isolated profanities on two other tracks include single uses of "d--n" and "bulls---."

Summary Advisory

I appreciate the positive moments that show up occasionally on Happy Endings, especially the first track's appreciative nod to a married couple who faithfully weathered life's storm together. Songs like these reveal a band of guys who at times seem to long for real, lasting commitment when it comes to romance.

That said, they have an awfully hard time finding and holding on to it. The result? We get more unhappy endings than happy ones here. And those disappointments often seem to fuel drinking binges that lead to still more unwise choices.

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Country

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Debuted at No. 7.

Record Label

RCA Nashville

Platform

Publisher

Released

August 25, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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